People of All Ages Doing Faith Together

I visited our sister church, South Yarra Community Baptist, on Sunday, and told them all about us. If you’re curious, this is what I said:

To paraphrase the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, “I greet you as God’s own children, and wish you all the best.” When I moved to Warrnambool last year, a good friend of mine described it as my own great missionary journey. So tonight I will channel the energies of the missionaries who spoke at churches in my childhood, and bring stories of more of God’s children, and a slideshow. My name is Alison, I’m your church-planting pastor, and I am very grateful for the administrative, liturgical, prayerful, and other support that South Yarra provides. I’m here in Melbourne this week because I’m doing an intensive on the spiritual life of children. Basically, I’m checking if I’m doing things right, because the congregation I now serve is two-thirds kids. As you can imagine, the service—and my work—have a very different energy to South Yarra. And yet, if you were to visit, things would probably feel strangely familiar.  Continue reading “People of All Ages Doing Faith Together”

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The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller

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Parables are like puzzle boxes. There are no easy answers, no straight readings. You can take a parable in several directions: how you interpret it depends on your faith community, your social location, your Biblical knowledge, your image of God, a good dose of the Holy Spirit, and—let’s be honest!—your mood. Now, most people have heard spiritual interpretations of the parable of the talents. In such a reading, those Christians who don’t use their money, time, gifts, and abilities to advance the kingdom of heaven will face God’s anger and judgement. But it’s interesting that nothing in the story says that the angry boss is God. So let’s swap the lens from spiritual to economic, and assume that Jesus meant the talents literally. A talent was a colossal unit of money, over a million dollars today: how might knowing this affect the reading? Listen as I riff on the story, and re-tell it in a modern context. Perhaps it will lead to a different place. And if it does, then, like all good parables, where you go from that place is up to you. So make yourself comfortable: it’s time for a story.  Continue reading “The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller”

It’s You!

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A person knocks on a door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your servant.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your sibling.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s You.” The door swings open.

What if we have already been given every spiritual resource we need? What if we can be so transformed by Christ that, when he looks into our eyes, he sees himself? What if it is up to each of us to open the door?  Continue reading “It’s You!”

And They Doubted…

They doubted.

Three days after Jesus was executed and put in the ground, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met the living risen Christ, and brought the Word to all the followers of Jesus: he will meet you in Galilee. So they went to Galilee. And there they saw Jesus! He came to them, and spoke with them, and they worshipped him.

And they doubted. Continue reading “And They Doubted…”

Wounded and Scarred – and Here!

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Some of you might remember a television program called ‘Yes, Minister!’, which took a satirical look at how government really worked. In one episode, a new hospital was awarded an efficiency prize. It was later discovered to have 500 administrators—and no patients! I was thinking about churches and Christian communities when I remembered this episode, for it is impossible to be seriously involved in a church or Christian community without coming up against the hassle of sick and wounded people. Continue reading “Wounded and Scarred – and Here!”

Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness

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Last week, we heard about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and how they encountered Christ. Through gathering, confession, Word, and Table, they came to recognise the Risen Lord in a stranger; and when this happened, they were so excited that they rushed off to tell everyone about it. This story is so foundational to our faith that, for over two thousand years, Jesus’ disciples have largely followed the pattern of gathering, confession, Word, and Table whenever they meet: and it is this pattern that we follow in our own worship service. We do this because we trust that when we engage in these practices, somehow, somewhere, we will catch a glimpse of Christ and be oriented back to God, an orientation we are to carry into the rest of the week. So that’s why we meet the way we do. But what of the rest of the week? What are we to do then? Continue reading “Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness”

Life on the Road

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The disciples are despairing. They are scattered and confused. For they have witnessed the death of their great hope, their teacher, their friend. And in tonight’s story, we hear that two have decided to walk away from the scene of violence, away from Jerusalem, away from the body of Jesus. As they walk, they talk. Jesus comes alongside them. They don’t recognise him. But something in the man leads them to tell him about their discouragement, and the dashing of their hopes. They had been following a man they thought would overthrow the oppressors and restore Israel. Instead, he was crucified, and Israel remains under Roman control. Continue reading “Life on the Road”

Stepping through the ethical minefield with Jesus

Before we moved to Warrnambool, we lived in an area of Melbourne which was a hive of ethical activity. Our clothes were locally made or from the op shop. We rode our bikes to buy direct trade coffee, then ducked into organic wholefoods for some ethical groceries. What we couldn’t buy there, we’d get at the IGA, after checking each company against our sustainable supermarket guide. We grew our greens and herbs; experimented with Community Supported Agriculture, but got sick of all those potatoes; so opted into a local veggie box instead. Our honey came from local hives; our socks were made in Brunswick; we purchased gifts from local artisans; our furniture was second hand. Even our house renovation appeared in a green architecture magazine. There were times when we were so ethical, it makes me sick. Of course, we lived this way because we were trying to be followers of Jesus—and because we were surrounded by people also seeking to live more sustainably, the critical mass made it easy. But every now and then, or maybe quite a lot, I’d feel someone, probably me, rolling her eyes because a coffee wasn’t fair, or a chair was from IKEA, or the eggs were from battery hens—and I’d wonder if I’d missed the point. Continue reading “Stepping through the ethical minefield with Jesus”

Love who?!

Once upon a time, I was sitting in a class at the theological college when the concept of ‘love your enemy’ came up. The pastor of a large church became annoyed and said, “I’ve got no idea why we waste time talking about this. We’re Christians—we have no enemies!” His comment revealed what is actually a fairly common idea: Those of us who are not actively oppressed by a violent regime, and who work very hard to be nice, often think we love everyone. But is this true? And can we throw the whole idea of loving our enemy out? Continue reading “Love who?!”

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